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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A  HERMIT  IN  THE   HIMALAYAS

of the Himalayan barrier from the low-lying plains of India on the
right to the savage line where Tibet adjoins Tehri-Garhwal State on
the left. Nearly all the rainbow-colours are here, from the snow-
white of a moonstone to the violet of a spinel ruby, and from the
dark blue of a lapis lazuli to the olive green of a chrysoberyl. Every-
thing is radiant in the vertical rays of the midday sun which pours
heavily upon us both. We move over the broken rubble and loosened
earth and fallen rocky slabs which mingle to make the path and
proceed downward a little more quickly.

At the end of five hours* riding I have had enough of the saddle
and dismount. I find myself in a sunburnt region of barren heights
and purple rocks and chalky stones which remind me curiously of
the arid Valley of the Tombs of the Dead in Upper Egypt. So far I
have met only two other travellers, a man returning on foot from a
pilgrimage to Gangotri, who looks footsore, weary, slightly ill, but
determined, and a half-clothed peasant mountaineer who crouches
respectfully on one side as I pass. With the first man I have a few
words in greeting before we part. The second is most obviously a
simple soul who, despite his arrant poverty> can teach some of our
shrewder townsfolk a few lessons in honesty and integrity.

I sit down on a smooth-topped slab of rock beside the trail and
open my vacuum flask for the inevitable drink of tea. In the small
saddle-bag I find some solid food, which I share dutifully with the
horse. For a few minutes I stretch my limbs upon the rock and then,
refreshed, spring into the saddle again and we trot off once more.

On and on we go through a constantly changing variety of
scenery, up hill and down dale, along summits and around peaks,
amid rocky escarpments and woodland dells, in and out of gorges,
valleys and ravines, creeping always along the edge or face of preci-
pices. Tier upon tier of the mountain ridges, which cut up the whole
of this kingdom, rise beyond, their heads uplifted like rows of waves.
Everything blends and mingles to make up the Himalayan land-
scape. It is a magnificent sensation, this, of being alone with Nature
in her wildest grandeur, almost intoxicating in the elevation which
it gives to one's thoughts, hopes and ambitions. For one seems to
draw a power out of these strong granite mountains, a magnetism
which tones up the will and renders less insuperable the barriers
which handicap every man's life. And this is as it should be, for
Nature herself must and does possess an aura, a mental atmosphere
no less than man. Whoever is at all sensitive feels it, absorbs it,
and is consequently influenced by it. I write that statement not as a
poet, but as a scientist. Where can one find a more powerful mani-
festation of this aura, I reflect, than in the Himalayas, one of Nature's
supreme attempts to express herself upon a cyclopean scale? Most of

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